Review: Seagate FreeAgent Theater HD Media Player Solution + 250GB FreeAgent Go and Dock

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Quick Version: In short, the FreeAgent Theater HD Media Player Solution from Seagate was made for a caveman if cavemen been around in 1999 when people actually used the DivX codec and only used Windows machines. Not to be completely unfair, but if you’re an avid reader of CrunchGear or a savvy BitTorrenter then this definitely isn’t what you’re looking for.

Extended Version: That being said, the FreeAgent Theater might be for the consumer who is just getting into converting their own DVD collection, and who also wants to share photos and music. Anything beyond that and you’re going to want to opt for something else like the Western Digital WD TV HD Media Player.

Codec Support

This is where the FreeAgent really struggles compared to its competition from Western Digital. Who uses MPEG-1? And as Carlos Nicholas noted, what product coming out in 2009 doesn’t support mp4?

Video: MPEG-1, MPEG-2 (AVI/VOB/ISO), MPEG-4 (AVI/DivX /Xvid)

Subtitles: SAMI(smi), SRT and SUB

Video resolutions: NTSC 480i/480p; PAL 576i/576p, supports video (HD and upscaling) up to 720p/1080i*

Audio: MP3, AC3 (5.1 audio – Dolby® Digital) WMA, WAV, OGG

Photo: JPEG files up to 20 megapixels

* supports MPEG-4, Xvid up to 1280 x 720 60fps and supports MPEG-2 and photos up to 1920 x 1080i 30 fps

Software

The one shining star for the FA is its UI, and it looks like a clone of the AppleTV. It’s easy to navigate and even a caveman could it. Because the FreeAgent software only works on Windows machines I just dropped a couple files onto a thumb drive rather than using the 250GB FreeAgent Go external. It’s locked down for starters and I’m not about to reformat it because I will update this review when I’ve had a chance to load content via Windows.

There are separate media folders for video, music and photos, but any file that isn’t supported will get dumped into every category. You can see this in the video with the latest Yeah Yeah Yeahs album. The m4a files aren’t recognized but the folder is.

Hardware

Seagate boasts HD playback on the FreeAgent but it lacks an HDMI output and only plays back 720p if it’s the correct codec. I’m of the mindset that when you say something plays back HD video then it should be 1080p. I know 720p is HD, but it’s not full HD.

As I noted in my video, the FreeAgent chorks itself to death when switching video output to anything other than SD when connected over Composite. You have to connect over Component to fix the problem, but if you want audio you have to jump back to Composite. It’s a lose-lose situation.

Conclusion: I can’t be bothered with listing the pros and cons of the FreeAgent Theater. It’s pretty obvious that this was made for a luddite. Assuming the hardware can support modern day codecs with a firmware update, I’d refrain from buying this thing from Seagate. It’s overpriced for what it is compared to the Western Digital WD TV.

Product Page

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